OMB calls critical race theory ‘divisive, un-American,’ orders agencies to cease training

To listen to the Federal Newscast on your phone or mobile device, subscribe in PodcastOne or Apple Podcasts. The best listening experience on desktop can be found using Chrome, Firefox or Safari.

  • The president has a new directive for all agencies: Cease and desist all training on critical race theory or white privilege. The Office of Management and Budget says the president is concerned agencies are training their employees on what it calls, “un-American propaganda.” OMB believes certain training on racism is “divisive… false and demeaning propaganda.” It wants agencies to identify all contracts or spending on this training and come up with a plan to stop it. OMB says it will release more detailed guidance on this directive soon.
  • Military from all branches will be subject to the president’s upcoming payroll tax deferral. A senior administration official tells Federal News Network that active-duty military members will see temporary savings as a result of the president’s payroll tax deferral. The Coast Guard informed its military and civilian workforce of the upcoming payroll tax deferral late last week. The Coast Guard notice says the deferral is non-negotiable. All payroll providers must implement it. And military and civilian employees will have to pay deferred taxes back over the course of several paychecks starting next January. (Federal News Network)
  • Fewer federal employees filed retirement claims last month. New data from the Office of Personnel Management shows the number of employees who retired dropped to under 6,800, which is slightly below the number of people who retired in July. At the same time, OPM says the inventory of backlogged claims grew for the second month in a row, from more than 17,600 in July to more than 18,500 in August. (Federal News Network)
  • OPM wants to move away from a learning management system to a learning ecosystem. The Office of Personnel Management put out 17 functional areas that it is considering for a new governmentwide learning ecosystem. In a draft solicitation, OPM is asking for industry feedback on its plans to update its USA Learning platform, which is currently used by 60 agencies. OPM says it wants to move away from a traditional LMS and toward an approach that provides more granular data and content integrated with workplace learning activities. Comments on the request for information and draft statement of work are due September 18.
  • With less than two months until the Presidential election, agencies have to get moving to prepare for a second term or a new administration. The Office of Management and Budget reminded agencies of the actions required under the Presidential Transition Act of 1963 and the changes signed into law earlier this year. In a memo to agency leaders, OMB says agencies should designate a senior career official, develop briefing materials by November 1 and have succession plans in place by September 15.
  • The Pentagon has finished a six-month reevaluation of its JEDI Cloud contract. Despite earlier indications to the contrary, DoD did not even make a new award in the up-to-$10 billion contract. Instead, it wrapped up the corrective action process by simply reaffirming the award it made to Microsoft last October. The department says it reached that decision after revaluating new bids from Amazon and Microsoft, but whether those steps will satisfy a federal judge is yet to be seen. Amazon says it plans to keep fighting the award at the Court of Federal Claims. (Federal News Network)
  • The way defense businesses are conducting independent research for the military is misaligned with the Defense Department’s priorities, auditors said. The Pentagon subsidizes some research by private defense companies in hopes of spurring new advances. It runs taxpayers about $5 billion a year. However, a new Government Accountability Office report says the way the money is being spent is not meshing with the Defense Department’s priorities. The report states DoD does not know how contractors’ research fits into the department’s technology goals. While DoD is looking for all-star advances, companies are tending to make more conservative investments that continue making profits.
  • The Social Security Administration will launch video hearings this fall. Members of the public can participate in appeal hearings by phone or video via Microsoft Teams. SSA Commissioner Andrew Saul says the new video services are part of the agency’s ongoing efforts to find new ways to serve the public. He says phone and video hearings will be the only way members of the public can use these services for the foreseeable future. SSA administrative law judges have conducted 180,000 phone hearings since March.
  • Two senators are asking the Government Accountability Office to look into racism at the Department of Veterans Affairs. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) say they’re interested in whether systemic racism has an impact on VA employees and the veterans they serve. The American Federation of Government Employees recently surveyed its VA members. 78% say racism is a moderate to serious problem at the VA. Warren and Schatz say the union’s survey results suggest the VA has not adequately addressed employee concerns.
  • The Navajo Nation is adding its voice to a chorus of calls for more investigation into recent deaths at Fort Hood, Texas. That is after one of the tribe’s members collapsed and later died during a training exercise at the base. Pvt. Corlton L. Chee was the 28th Fort Hood soldier to die this year, according to data obtained by the Associated Press. The Pentagon announced a change in leadership at the central Texas installation last week. (Federal New Network)
  • The Navy says it might restart its regular physical fitness evaluations, starting in January. The Navy canceled the evaluations for both the spring and fall of 2020 because of the coronavirus. Chief of Naval Personnel Vice Adm. John Nowell encourages sailors to continue exercising and staying in shape to keep up readiness. The Navy recently substituted planks in place of curl ups and rowing as an option for cardio exercise during the physical fitness test.